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Influence of tillage, crop rotation and nitrogen fertilization on soil organic matter and nitrogen under rain-fed Mediterranean conditions

Influence of tillage, crop rotation and nitrogen fertilization on soil organic matter and nitrogen under rain-fed Mediterranean conditions

Soil and Tillage Research 43(3-4): 277-293

ISSN/ISBN: 0167-1987

DOI: 10.1016/s0167-1987(97)00018-4

The long-term effects of cropping systems and management practices on soil properties provide essential information for assessing sustainability and environmental impact. Field experiments were undertaken in southern Spain to evaluate the long-term effects of tillage, crop rotation and nitrogen (N) fertilization on the organic matter (OM) and mineral nitrogen (Nmin) contents of soil in a rain-fed Mediterranean agricultural system over a 6-year period. Tillage treatments included no tillage (NT) and conventional tillage (CT), crop rotations were of 2 yr with wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)-sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) (WS), wheat-chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) (WP), wheat-faba bean (Vicia faba L.) (WB), wheat-fallow (WF), and in addition, continuous wheat (CW). Nitrogen fertilizer rates were 50, 100, and 150 kg N ha-1. A split-split plot design with four replications was used. Soil samples were collected from a depth of 90 cm at the beginning of the experiment and 6 yr later. Soil samples were also collected from a depth of 30 cm after 4 yr. These samples, like those obtained at the beginning of the experiment, were subjected to comprehensive physico-chemical analyses. The soil samples that were collected 6 yr later were analyzed for OM, NH4+-N and NO3-N at the 0-30, 30-60 and 60-90 cm soil depths. The tillage method did not influence the OM or Nmin contents of the soil, nor did legume rotations increase the OM content of soil relative to CW. A longer period may have been required for differences between treatments to be observed owing to the small amount of crop residue that is returned to soil under rain-fed conditions of semi-arid climates. The WF rotation did not raise the Nmin content of the soil relative to the other rotations. The consistent significant interaction between tillage and crop rotation testifies to the differential effect of the management system on the OM content and N status of the soil. The ammonium levels clearly exceeded those of NO3-throughout the soil profile. The high Nmin content of the soils reveals the presence of abundant N resources that should be home in mind in establishing N fertilization schemes for crops under highly variable climatic conditions including scant rainfall such as those of the Mediterranean region.

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Accession: 003176733

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